After Generations Working In Coal, Young West Virginians Are Finding Jobs In Solar

Solar Holler founder Dan Conant, foreground, looks on at the beginning of a solar roof installation in Lewisburg, West Virginia.  Credit: Jason Margolis

By Jason Margolis for PRI – Nobody from his graduating class is working in coal, says Swiger. “[They’re] honestly working in fast food, or not working at all.” Not Swiger. He has a job installing rooftop solar panels. He says his family is delighted with it. “They’re excited that I’m actually doing something different,” says Swiger. “A lot of people ain’t doing this in West Virginia, a lot of people are against it actually. A lot of people want to go back to coal. “I ain’t against it, I love solar. It’s way better than coal, I think.” Solar panels can save people money on their electricity bills and cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, which fuel climate change. With battery storage, found in some home set-ups, solar can also allow people to continue to power their homes off the grid during power outages. Swiger is working as an apprentice with Solar Holler, which was founded four years ago by 32-year-old Dan Conant. Conant doesn’t see solar energy and coal at odds with each other. “The way I think about it, as a West Virginian, is that West Virginia has always been an energy state, and this is just the next step. It’s the next iteration,” says Conant. West Virginia’s economy has long been reliant on coal. Metallurgical coal, which is found in the state, is used in the steel-making process.

Navajo Solar Plant To Replace Coal Plant

From apnews.com

By Staff of the Associated Press – FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — A giant array of solar panels near the famed sandstone buttes of Monument Valley has begun producing electricity for the Navajo Nation at a time when the tribe is bracing for the loss of hundreds of jobs from the impending closure of a nearby coal-fired power plant. The Kayenta Solar Facility is the first utility-scale solar project on the Navajo Nation, producing enough electricity to power about 13,000 Navajo homes. The plant comes at a time when the area’s energy landscape is shifting. The coal-fired Navajo Generating Station near Page is set to close in December 2019, leaving a site that both tribal and private entities say has potential for renewable energy development. The Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, which owns the solar plant, said the project advances clean energy on the reservation long known for fossil fuel development, the Arizona Daily Sun reported. Walter Haase, general manager of the tribal utility, said the plant proves to investors, developers and tribal communities that renewable energy projects are possible on the reservation.

Citizens Begin Reclaiming Coal Country After Decades Of Corporate Land Grabs

The Appalachian Citizen’s Law Center recently found it would cost more than $9.6 billion to reclaim the 6.2 million acres of lands and waters of abandoned and polluted mine sites.

Photo of West Virginia mountaintop by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images.

By Emma Eisenberg for Yes! Magazine – “Land is the most important thing to us, yet it’s not clear at all who owns it,” says Karen Rignall, assistant professor of community and leadership development at the University of Kentucky. “Without broad-scale knowledge of the patterns of land ownership this region cannot work together to move forward. But who owns it on paper is not always who owns it in actuality. That takes time and money to find out.” The coal industry of central Appalachia has been on the decline for more than 30 years, with West Virginia and Kentucky losing more than 38,000 coal jobs in that time. As coal companies pulled out, they took with them the dollars that small towns used to use to fund their schools and infrastructure, and left behind abandoned mines, polluted rivers and vast swaths of vacant land. All over Appalachia, communities and organizations are working around the clock to come up with a way to “justly transition” the Appalachian economy to whatever comes next. Rignall and postdoctoral researcher Lindsay Shade are collaborating with a growing group of citizens that think a part of the answer to a post-coal economy may lie with an old land ownership study—and have been inspired by it to do a new one.

Coastal Communities Sue 37 Oil, Gas And Coal Companies Over Climate Change

Lawsuits filed by two coastal California counties and a city argue that fossil fuel companies named in the lawsuits knew greenhouse gas emissions had a significant impact on the climate and sea levels and "concealed the dangers." Credit: David McNew/Getty Images

By Georgina Gustin for Inside Climate News – Two California counties and a city are suing 37 fossil fuel companies, accusing them of knowingly emitting dangerous greenhouse gases that have contributed to global warming that threatens their communities with sea level rise. It won’t be an easy case to make, legal experts say, but it’s drawing the interest of private attorneys who see enough potential to take it on. Marin and San Mateo counties, near San Francisco, and the city of Imperial Beach, south of San Diego, filed the new lawsuits in California Superior Court on Monday against Exxon, Shell and 35 other oil, gas and coal companies. Their lawsuits accuse the companies of having known, for nearly five decades, “that greenhouse gas pollution from their fossil fuel products had a significant impact on the Earth’s climate and sea levels.” They say the companies’ “awareness of the negative implications of their behavior corresponds” with rising greenhouse gas emissions. Together, the lawsuits say, the companies were responsible for roughly 20 percent of total emissions from 1965 to 2015. The lawsuits contend that the companies “concealed the dangers, sought to undermine public support for greenhouse gas regulation, and engaged in massive campaigns to promote the ever-increasing use of their products at ever greater volumes.”

Climate Activists Crashed Global Insurance Meeting To Demand Exit From Coal Companies

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By Peter Bosshard for Alternet – By divesting from coal companies, insurers can fulfill their basic mission: to protect us from catastrophic risk. Climate activists brought their message that insurance companies need to stop supporting coal projects to a global meeting of insurance CEOs in San Francisco. On June 15, activists interrupted the opening session of the CEO gathering at the Ritz Carlton Hotel and raised a banner that read, “The World’s Best Insurance? Keeping Coal in the Ground.” The banner display was part of a series of climate protests welcoming the insurance CEOs, who met in San Francisco at the invitation of the Geneva Association, an insurance think-tank. A letter was also sent to the individual CEOs, calling for them to move away from coal and invest in renewables. Then, on the following day, activists conveyed their message with a public rally of insurance mascots to greet the CEOs, and circled the executives’ closing dinner at a landmark hotel tower with a plane displaying the message, “Insurers: Unfriend Coal Now.”

Georgia Town Fights Becoming Coal Ash Dumping Ground

Sandra and Jerry Sloan, who run Sloan's Wild Game Processing, live less than a mile from the Broadhurst landfill. “I figured with the money that was involved, it would go on through,” Jerry Sloan said. “I think all the people against it, fighting to keep it out of here is what stopped it.” Credit: Georgina Gustin

By Georgina Gustin for Inside Climate News – When news spread that Republic Services planned to dump trainloads of toxic coal ash in a local landfill, citizens, led by the local newspaper, fought—and won. JESUP, Georgia—Peggy Riggins remembers standing against the wall of a windowless meeting room on a January day last year. Dozens of people sat in folding chairs, others crowded the aisles and more packed the hallway outside, tilting their heads to hear. The Wayne County commissioners were unaccustomed to a big audience. But over the previous weeks, the local newspaper had uncovered plans by an out-of-town waste hauler to expand a rail line leading to the community’s landfill. County residents were getting more and more concerned with each story. This new rail spur would enable the company—later found to be Republic Services, a $9-billion firm based in Phoenix whose biggest shareholder is Microsoft’s Bill Gates—to haul 10,000 tons of toxic coal ash through the county’s swampy forestlands and into the dump every day. Riggins, like a lot of her neighbors, had never thought much about the Broadhurst Environmental Landfill, as it is formally known, and had barely heard of coal ash. But as the news unfolded, Wayne County learned that it could become one of the biggest coal ash dumping grounds in the South, thanks to a loophole in federal regulations.

EPA Spreads Misinformation About Coal, Climate & Paris Agreement

Some of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's most misleading statements had to do with the Paris climate agreement. Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

By Marianne Lavelle for Inside Climate News – EPA administrator Scott Pruitt has spread a lot of misinformation in defending President Trump’s plan to exit the Paris climate agreement. Here’s a reality check. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has thrown around plenty of figures in his spirited defense of President Donald Trump’s decision to exit the Paris climate agreement. But many of them are just plain wrong. An EPA spokesperson did admit that Pruitt “misspoke” in his claim, repeated multiple times, that 50,000 coal jobs had been created since the fourth quarter of 2016, after the number was debunked by The Washington Post, USA Today, Politifact and others. Coal mining currently only has about 50,000 jobs, total, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But some of Pruitt’s most misleading statements had to do with the Paris agreement itself. Here are just a few:

Rover Pipeline: Climate Disaster Equal To 42 Coal Plants

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By Kelly Trout for Oil Change International – As controversy swirls around a string of spills and air and water violations caused by Energy Transfer Partners’ construction of the Rover gas pipeline, a study released today underlines another reason federal regulators should halt the project: It will fuel a massive increase in climate pollution. A new analysis by Oil Change International finds that, if the Rover Pipeline is built, it will cause as much greenhouse gas pollution as 42 coal-fired power plants – some 145 million metric tons per year. The study slams the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for using chronically outdated assumptions to sweep this significant climate impact under the rug in its environmental review of the project. “As the biggest new pipeline being built to carry fracked gas out of the Appalachian Basin, the Rover Pipeline is the biggest climate disaster of them all,” said Lorne Stockman, senior research analyst at Oil Change International and the lead author of the study. “After Trump’s malicious pullout from the Paris climate accord, challenging each new pipeline is all the more important. While FERC remains in a state of denial, it’s increasingly clear that gas pipelines are a bridge to climate destruction.

Let’s Face It: The Coal Industry Is a Job Killer

Flickr/ Aqua Mechanical

By Basav Sen for Other Words – Wind and solar could create many, many more jobs than coal — especially if the government stops propping it up. When Donald Trump announced he was rolling back the Obama administration’s signature climate rules this spring, he invited coal miners to share the limelight with him. He promised this would end the so-called “war on coal” and bring mining jobs back to coal country. He was dead wrong on both counts. Trump has blamed the prior administration’s Clean Power Plan for the loss of coal jobs. But there’s an obvious problem with this claim: The plan hasn’t even gone into effect! Repealing it will do nothing to reverse the worldwide economic and technological forces driving the decline of the coal industry. And the problem is global. As concern rises over carbon dioxide, more and more countries are turning away from coal. U.S. coal exports are down, and coal plant construction is slowing the world over — even as renewables become cheaper and more widespread. To really bring back coal jobs, Trump would have to wish these trends away — along with technological automation and natural gas, which have taken a much bigger bite out of coal jobs than any regulation.

UK Set For First Coal-Free Work Day Since Pre-Industrial Times

Drax, the UK's biggest coal power station, has converted to partly run on biomass (Flickr/Jonathan Brennan)

By Megan Darby for Climate Home – Three old coal plants closed last year, while surging renewables, cheap gas and a carbon price make the remaining power stations less viable. A halving of coal use in 2016 was the main driver of a 5.8% fall in UK carbon dioxide emissions, according to Carbon Brief analysis of official data. The government has pledged to end coal burning by 2025, subject to consultation. Hannah Martin, head of energy at Greenpeace UK, said the day should be noted by politicians fighting over who will lead the UK through the next stage of its energy transition. “A decade ago, a day without coal would have been unimaginable, and in ten years’ time our energy system will have radically transformed again,” she said. “It is a clear message to any new government that they should prioritise making the UK a world leader in clean, green, technology. They will need to get on with the coal phase-out plan and recognise the economic potential of renewable energy and energy efficiency. We can meet the UK’s needs for skilled jobs and fair bills, whilst also meeting our climate targets.” Britain is phasing out coal faster than some European neighbours like Germany, helped by a surcharge of £18 a tonne of CO2 ($23) on top of the €5 ($5) EU market price.

EU Utilities Pledge To Stop Building Coal Plants In 2020

The Reid Gardner Coal Plant on Maopa Paiute land (Photo: Derrick Broze/MintPress News)

By Anamaria Olaru for Eurelectric – In a statement adopted by the Board of Directors, the sector reiterates its commitment to deliver on the Paris Agreement. In addition, it announces its intention not to invest in new-build coal-fired power plants after 2020. “The power sector is determined to lead the energy transition and back our commitment to the low- carbon economy with concrete action,” said EURELECTRIC President and CEO of the Portuguese energy group EDP, António Mexia. “With power supply becoming increasingly clean, electric technologies are an obvious choice for replacing fossil fuel based systems for instance in the transport sector to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” he added.

Utility Survey: Trump Will Not Stop the Clean Energy Transition

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By Gavin Bade for Utility Dive. Today, President Trump is poised to release a long-anticipated executive order to roll back the Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration’s signature climate initiative. The order is expected to be accompanied by directives to lift a moratorium on federal land coal leases and to cease the use of the social cost of carbon — all part of a broad campaign to dismantle environmental regulations on the power sector that Trump blames for the decline of the coal economy in the United States. But while rescinding the rules could help slow coal power’s decline in the short term, analysts say it is unlikely to reverse its long-term downturn, mostly due to the economics of natural gas and renewables. That attitude is shared not just by market observers, but by electric utilities themselves.

Trump Sides With Coal And Other Carbon Polluters

Trump flanked by the Blackstone CEO, Stephen Schwarzman, a Momentive investor and Trump’s ‘jobs czar’, and the General Motors CEO, Mary Barra. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

By Alex Guillen for Politico – President Donald Trump ordered his administration to begin dismantling his predecessor’s climate change policies on Tuesday with a sweeping directive to end what he called a “crushing attack” on the U.S. economy — by halting efforts to reduce the carbon pollution of electric utilities, oil and gas drillers and coal miners. The executive order Trump signed represents his biggest blow yet to former President Barack Obama’s climate legacy. But it does not go as far as some conservatives would like to dismantle the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases, nor will it begin to separate the U.S. from a landmark international climate accord — two areas of intense disagreement within the administration.

Two Fracked Gas Pipelines Equal Greenhouse Gas Pollution Of 45 Coal Plants

A sign held at an anti-Enbridge protest in Vancouver. (Photo: travis blanston/flickr/cc)

By Staff of Oil Change International – Two studies released today find that if built, the controversial Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines would together contribute as much greenhouse gas pollution as 45 coal-fired power plants — some 158 million metric tons a year. The studies, released by Oil Change International, build upon a new methodology, also released today, for calculating the climate impacts of natural gas pipelines in the Appalachian Basin based on the evolving science of methane leakage and its impact on our climate. The studies show that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is out of date on measuring climate impacts, and is failing to protect communities and citizens around the country. “Our analysis shows that both the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline are climate disasters.

Cheaper Renewables To Halt Coal And Oil Demand Growth From 2020

Two workers walk in front of coal accumulated at a thermal power plant in Abono, near Gijon, northern Spain, June 5, 2012. REUTERS/Eloy Alonso

By Nina Chestney for Reuters – The falling cost of electric vehicle and solar technology will halt demand growth for oil and coal from 2020, according to research published on Thursday, posing a threat to fossil fuel companies unprepared for the transition. The Grantham Institute at Imperial College London and independent think tank Carbon Tracker Initiative analyzed cost forecasts for electric vehicle (EV) and solar photovoltaic (PV) technology, government policies and the impact on road transport and power markets, which account for half of global fossil fuel consumption. “Fossil fuels may lose 10 percent of market share to PV and EVs within a single decade.